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Heather Knight hits on the right recipe for Test cricket

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Published in Cricket
Wednesday, 22 June 2022 11:04
Poised to play her third Test in a touch over a year, Heather Knight feels she has "started to really get my head around" the best way to approach the longest format ahead of next week's encounter with South Africa in Taunton.

Knight, the England captain, was player of the match, achieving her highest Test score with an unbeaten 168, in a thrilling draw against Australia in January. It was her second match-saving century from nine appearances and she added 48 in the second innings after other notable scores of 95 against India last year, and fifties in each innings of 2017 Ashes Test.

"I think I've found that balance between defence and attack a little bit more in my last few Tests," Knight said. "When you first play Test cricket, suddenly I felt like I had to be really defensive and it was about batting time. Whereas now I've found the balance a bit more of how am I going to do my main job of scoring runs alongside managing potentially, if the ball is moving a little bit more, we might have to soak up pressure.

"I just love batting and I love the chance to just keep batting. Often in ODI or T20 cricket obviously you're looking to get on with it and take a few more risks. In a Test match, I feel like it's really about making those big hundreds, those big scores that are going to try and influence and help the team win matches."

Her comments about becoming increasingly comfortable with the format are poignant after ICC chair Greg Barclay questioned the future of women's Tests - remarks Knight described as "sad" and sending "a dangerous message".

None of the last five women's Tests have produced a result and next week's fixture will be South Africa's first women's Test in seven years. Only once since 2007 has a team other than England, India and Australia competed in a Test, when South Africa suffered an innings defeat at the hands of India in 2014.

A result in Taunton would probably assist advocates of women playing more red-ball games, of which Knight is one, particularly as part of multi-format series, as this one is, coming before three ODIs and three T20Is.

That said, Knight would be happy if her side continues to model their game on their hard-fought contest with Australia when England, chasing 257 made the highest fourth-innings score in women's Test history with 245 for 9. In the end, Kate Cross and Sophie Ecclestone blocked out rather than chasing 13 off the last 13 balls, but all four results remained possible in the final over.

"We found ourselves in slightly different situations but I thought the way we approached that game in Canberra is exactly how I want us to approach the game we've got next week," Knight said. "I want us as batters and bowlers to try and take the game forward at any opportunity we've got. The way we nearly chased down that total in Canberra was brilliant.

"Obviously it didn't quite end how we wanted it to but if we can take the game forward as much as we can, give the team the best chance to try and win that match, that's going to stand us in good stead to hopefully win a Test match because obviously the last few have been draws and we've spoken about it this week ,that next week is a really good opportunity for us as a side to actually win that Test match."

The match will be England's first experience playing with the red Dukes ball, having used a Kookaburra in Australia and during last year's Test with India in preparation for the Ashes. So even with five potential Test debutants in her 13-player squad, the seasoned veterans will be learning something new too.

"They actually feel a bit smaller, weirdly," Knight said of the red Dukes. "The seam is more pronounced. They definitely bounce a little bit more, stay harder for longer, and with the new ball, it tends not to swing massively straightaway. We've probably found it's about five, six overs before the lacquer comes off that they really start to swing around and you can shine them up.

"I think it's a really good move for women's Test cricket. You always feel like you're in the game a little bit as a bowler with the ball being a little bit harder but also, as a batter, you get really good value for shots.

"Obviously we used the Kookaburra but I think that's what made the Canberra Test quite exciting, the fact that the pitch carried, there was always a little bit in it for the bowlers. But as a batter you felt like you could score quickly and you got good value for your runs. That's an important component for the women's game, to make Test cricket really exciting and really great to watch."

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo

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